"There's a simple message at the heart of this project: separation is always defeat"
by Aurore Engelen
- CANNES 2016: Cineuropa sat down with Joachim Lafosse, who is making his third appearance on the Croisette with After Love, which is being presented in the Directors’ Fortnight
Belgian director Joachim Lafosse has proven to be a safe bet in European cinema. An expert in making harsh and cutting films (his last, The White Knights [+see also:
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile], looks back at the Zoé’s Ark affair), he has changed his modus operandi a little for After Love [+see also:
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile], an intimate look at the end of a relationship, which is being presented in the Directors’ Fortnight at the 69th Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What was behind this project, which is so different to your previous films?
Joachim Lafosse: I feel like this is my first film that isn’t tragic; there’s a slight tenderness to it, although it is still a bitter story. It’s the film I’m proudest of, the movie that best captures me. I co-wrote After Love with Mazarine Pingeot; we wanted to make a film about a couple, with actors our age. And so I saw a chance in this to do what I had wanted to do for years: make a film with a tiny crew, in a single location, with the idea of portraying a pair of twins and a couple in the middle of a separation, so two completely opposite paths… I am a twin myself, and I have a feeling that I have reached a stage in my life where I am slowly embracing the idea of being part of a couple, after having wanted to be alone for years – to not be dependent. Obviously, the story of a couple that work really well together does not necessarily mean the makings of a good film. This is the end of a pair of lovers, who, due to the circumstances, must learn to remain a parental couple, following the end of their passion, which opens them up to something calmer and less contentious.
It’s an incredibly intimate approach, in which we see a couple living in their own little bubble. The film seems to ask what is left of a couple when the love is gone, and whether it’s just a matter of logistics?
Marie and Boris are good parents, despite certain disagreements. They didn’t see their relationship coming to an end, and had never asked themselves how invested they each were in the relationship. They say that short reckonings make long friends, but I find that short reckonings make good love stories. It’s not just about looking at what both people bring, financially speaking, but also about how much of themselves they put into the relationship. That’s where we see a misunderstanding between them. The money is just the symptom, not the cause of the problem; I really wanted to dig deep into this idea. Boris puts their conflict down to the idea of a class struggle (an idea that Cédric Kahn brought to the table, incidentally). You’re always going to be poorer than someone else, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t live with that person. I hope that the enjoyment from the film comes from everyone taking their own ideas from it, and that the discussions begin right at the end. The film also takes a look at quite a recent social phenomenon. Our grandparents never separated from one another for moral reasons, because it just wasn’t done, while these days, people don’t want to split up for financial reasons. They continue to live together, in spite of everything, just for economics’ sake.
The actors are astounding…
That was the level of acting that this film and this subject matter deserved! Casting is very difficult for me, and it’s often happened to me before that there’s been a problem at the last minute, where I’ve felt that the character/actor relationship just wasn’t right. That’s what happened with this film. My producer and I thought of Cédric Kahn at pretty much the last minute. When he spoke to me about the script, it just felt right… Bérénice Bejo, on the other hand, is a real partner in crime, a reliable and hard-working partner. On a project that we worked on for six weeks with very few resources in a flat, someone like Bérénice really made a difference.
I’d always dreamt of living my own Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, of making a film with my own Richard Burton and Elisabeth Taylor. We found ourselves having a great deal of fun trying to recreate household scenes and literally engaging in child’s play over the course of six weeks. All this was done in a way that allowed the technical aspects to be low-key and give the actors the space they needed. For the first time, I had an incredible tool at my disposal, which was suggested to me by my DoP, Jean-François Hensgens, the Stabe-One, a much lighter stabiliser than a Steadicam. It gives the film a fluidity that was not present in my previous projects.
It feels as though, if there wasn’t this parental crisis, it would be impossible for Marie and Boris to make it out of their relationship crisis.
The crisis they’re living through reaches as far as their status as parents. There’s a simple message at the heart of this project: separation is always defeat. No one ever goes into a relationship with the hopes that they will break up. Suddenly, this accident makes them return to their roles as parents, roles that they will always have, whether they’re together or not. Somewhere in Private Property [+see also:
film profile], I also gave everyone a call to order: you can leave your partner, but you can’t leave behind your role as a parent. This realisation allows them to put an end to their fighting.
(Translated from French)